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Review from a long time CBGB employee
Brendan36 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The following review focuses on the portrayal of Hilly Kristal and CBGB. I will leave criticism of the aesthetics of the film and the film makers' skills to others with a less personal connection to the material.

I knew they were going to get things wrong and I also knew they were going to have to change and compress some things in order to tell a coherent story in under two hours.

There's a lot they got right and a lot they got wrong and there's a lot of good and bad in this movie.

One thing I have mixed feelings about was the decision for artistic sake to use a lot of actual pieces of the original club as props. Since this movie is set in the early to mid-1970's, highlighting the beginning of CBGB and its early notoriety, many people who know anything about underground music will find a number of things out of place. For example, it's cool that they used the actual phone booth from the club as a prop in the film, but when Alan Rickman as Hilly in 1974 is seen standing next to it with a visible 1993 CBGB twentieth anniversary poster on the side, it can be distracting. There are tons of stickers and flyers for bands from later years visible throughout the movie and if you know your music, it can be a little distracting.

It was also evident that someone involved in the set design of this film was a big fan of late 80's straight-edge as there are a disproportionate number of Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits stickers all over the interior.

Most of the big name bands of the 70's CBGB scene are represented here. Some notable bands missing, but this is a movie and we can't expect them to fit everyone. If you blink, you'll miss the two seconds an actress playing Annie Golden of The Shirts is on screen. The music is all lip synced studio recordings of the original artists… which is good because who wants to hear the actors doing covers?… and bad because every live performance sounds too perfect. Most bands are given very little screen time as it is obvious the film makers are trying very hard to fit as many in as possible, but each one is well represented and there are little true to life touches, such as Johnny Ramone's temper and Patti Smith's eccentricities, that are actually pretty humorous.

Good… The Dead Boys are featured heavily in this film (more than any other band) and a lot of people who never heard of them before seeing this film are going to be turned on to them. Rupert Grint actually does a great job as Cheetah Chrome. The closest thing to a plot this film has, aside from Hilly opening the club, is Hilly's decision to manage the Dead Boys and get a record out. The film loosely follows this effort right up to the stabbing of Johnny Blitz.

Bad… (SPOILER!!) After the stabbing of Johnny Blitz, the film ends quickly after Lisa and Merv come up with some money for Hilly. This is completely anticlimactic and unnecessary. Since the film chose to close shortly after the stabbing, they missed the opportunity to end the film big, with the infamous Johnny Blitz benefits at CBGB.

Good… Not only is John Holmstrom's story told here in the origin of Punk magazine, but his actual art is used throughout the film in various scene changes. Holmstrom is a good guy and deserves to have his story told and I'm glad his art is getting exposure in this film.

Bad… Savannah Georgia does not look like NYC. Okay, that's just a quibble. I know it's a movie, but I just had to throw that in.

Good… A few people I don't like were left out of this story and they're probably very upset.

Bad… Unfortunately, because of the legal dispute over Hilly's estate, his ex-wife Karen and his son Dana, both of whom were there at the very beginning of CBGB are left out of this story. Hilly's daughter Lisa is the only family member shown working at the club with him.

Good… Hilly's chili, dog waste everywhere, carnality on stage, Hilly leaving money in his freezer, and countless other little details that brought memories flooding back.

Bad… not bad for the movie, but the scene where Hilly is chided for forgetting to pay the rent will, unfortunately, only reinforce the incorrect assumption that many still have to this day that CBGB closed because of unpaid rent. Allow me to step away from my review for a moment. For the record, that is not why we closed. Though the landlord did improperly sue us over unpaid rent, it was just a dirty tactic to get us out. The rent was always paid. The judge not only threw the lawsuit out, but reprimanded the landlord for being so underhanded. Our lease expired and the landlord did not renew.

Back to the movie… The best thing about this movie and what made me actually really like it was the way Hilly was portrayed. Not only did Alan Rickman do a great job of capturing Hilly's mannerism and personality... for all the faults those of us who nitpick will find in this film, at its heart it is a sweet tribute to a great man. Hilly could be difficult to understand (figuratively and literally) and could have completely irrational emotional responses to some things for no reason and no response to things that warranted reaction, but his heart was always in the right place and he made CBGB a home for so many of us and his employees were often an extension of his family. For everything this film got right and everything this film got wrong, this was the most important thing and they got it perfectly right.
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Actually quite good, but depends what you're after.
Fenris Fil1 March 2014
Okay first of all if your a big fan of one particular artist or more in the story and are expecting their role (or even their personality) to be fleshed out, chances are you will be disappointed. They are all (aside from the Dead Boys) limited to cameos and as such some people find they are a little generic. I'm not sure how much depth people expect in what often amounts to less than a minutes screen time, but there you go. It is not a long movie and it would have been impossible to do justice to everyone involved in that music scene in such a short time. In the restraints they had, I believe they did well enough.

Secondly there are some liberties taken with the actual music. It didn't matter to me as it was all great music, but if your picky on such things that may irritate you. An example of this is that the Ramones don't actually play any Ramones tracks, instead they player a Joey Ramone solo track that was released later. I don't really understand why they made those choices, but that is the way it is. Some people may feel the "live" sound isn't gritty enough. Again, I had no problem here, I wanted to hear good music and I did.

Perhaps those that get the most out of this films are those that like the music but aren't huge fans of anyone in specific. This is where I fell and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed and I cried and when it finished I was happy. Alan Rickman is the centrepiece of this film and that I think will make this enjoyable to the majority of viewers (as the IMDb average suggests) as he is as solid as ever. The rest of the cast is reasonable but no one stands out. The sets look very accurate (from what I can tell at least) and the whole thing is quite believable.

Taken out of the historical context this is basically a light hearted comedy about a growing music scene and a guy with passion, kindness and absolutely no business acumen. It feels like a "British Comedy" which for many will be fine, but given the topic is a New York club some may feel it inappropriate. If you read this review and still want to see the film then you will no doubt enjoy it as much as I have (or more).
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Great film about an important moment in music history
Mickey Z3 October 2013
As someone who was "there" but as an outsider (14-year-old kid from NJ who idolized Punk magazine and especially the Ramones), I loved this film. Yes, I recognize a number of liberties were taken with the truth, but this film allowed me to relive the thrill I used to experience going to CBGB's (as we called it) back in the day (I started going around 1976 or so). Even more than that, it's great to get a glimpse of how CBGB's came to be.

More than that, the film works great as a film in and of itself -- the directing, pacing, acting and cinematography are all first rate, with nary a dull or dead spot throughout (until the end, but I'll get to that). I'm not generally one for tricks like the use of Holmstrom's art to frame the story, but since it's Punk magazine we're talking about, it makes perfect sense for this film.

The film just sails along -- I suppose partly because it's so much fun to see the various bands, and how much fun the actors had portraying the band members' quirks (the Joey Ramone character is spot on... ). In fact, I would have liked it if the film had been extended to include more of the early groups (they left out Suicide, who were everywhere back then) and more of the live performances. I'm a little torn by the decision to have them lip sync to album material -- on the one hand, it's the music we remember, on the other hand, most of the bands have live material available, even recorded at CBGB's, why not use some of that?

However, by the end... the film runs out of steam a bit. I think that comes partly from the decision to focus a bit too much on the Dead Boys storyline, knowing how doomed that band was, and how entirely outclassed they were by most of the other bands featured (Television, Talking Heads, Ramones, Blondie). Fortunately, the film only sags in the last 15 minutes or so, and it's still not enough to spoil a fine film dealing with a very important part of American -- and world -- music history.

For me, personally, this period shaped my entire life, certainly from an aesthetic point of view.

And great news! There's now a Best of Punk Magazine book available! (I still have my original copies around somewhere, but I can't wait to show this book to my kids!)
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A review by a CBGB Band Person and Indie Filmmaker!
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a female guitarist, bassist and songwriter who immersed myself in CBGBs and the original New York punk scene, who played at the club from the end of the 70s until months before its closing. I'm also a narrative filmmaker and believe I can fairly and objectively state the skinny here, and am copying over an edited, revised review from my website to fit in this rectangle:

Many of the musicians and club-goers who survived the New York punk era are a bit resentful they weren't included in the making of CBGB, a film about the quintessential punk club CBGB Omfug, but 50,000 bands (I quote this number from the film) passed through its portals since its founder, Hilly Kristal, opened its doors on Manhattan's flophouse-flavored Bowery. And, though the CBGB movie is flawed, it is still a lovely tribute to Hilly.

The brilliant actor Alan Rickman uncannily captures aspects of Hilly's personality and his dedication to all who passed through his "school of rock." This performance couldn't have been better. Director Randall Miller and Jody Savin have written a quirky script with heart, which includes some clever one-liners, and director Miller's work shines in scenes between Hilly and his co-workers. The sound mix––music often has dialogue interspersed––is excellent.

What you won't get in this film is the essence of punk attitude. Rather, the film documents the struggles Hilly Kristal went through to provide a platform for new music. And in that context, this film succeeds.

It is, however, frustrating that there is a huge miss in the portrayal of the punk scene without its high decibel deadpan, often self-deprecating humor that underlies its aesthetic. For example, though they achieve one such moment with Hilly's mother and Joey Ramone discussing a bowl of chili, elsewhere the script ignores the Ramones were inherently funny dudes from Queens, though the actors achieve a verisimilitude in appearance. (They do peg Johnny Ramone's tendency to tantrum.) Ergo, there is a lack of credibility in the portrayal of Debbie Harry of Blondie without her teasing tongue-in-cheek attitude; and in the portrayal of Stiv Bators, lead singer of the Dead Boys. Rupert Grint succeeds in affecting a stoner rock and roller in his role (a fun change for his fans from his goody-goody Ron Weasley days), but is not coming across with the love-of-the-instrument joy of the young, Dead Boys' guitarist Cheetah Chrome, though they do share the red hair. Kyle Gallner as Lou Reed is not in the ballpark at all. Ashley Greene, playing Hilly's daughter, Lisa, comes nowhere close to the stoic teenager who worked for her father and later attended law school (Hilly's CBGBs co-owner ex-wife and son are not portrayed in the film). It seems more care could have been taken with adhering to truth with these talented young actors who otherwise turn in acceptable acting performances.

As well, the ekphrasic device of movie turned into comic book, special effects popping in and out, while a clever nod to Punk Magazine, becomes distracting. It would likely have worked with a more restrained editing hand.

On the other hand, Mickey Sumner, Sting's real-life, extraordinarily talented actress daughter, sublimely metamorphoses into Patti Smith. In a brief, heart pounding stage performance, she exudes the true essence of punk; this offers a glimpse, alas, of the promise of what this film's portrayal of the punk scene could have been. A standout is Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop. And Freddy Rodriguez nearly steals the film with his riveting performance as the drug addict, Idaho.

I adore they include the story of a biker gang leader famously agreeing to keep his group out of the club: This alludes to a real event that happened with the Hell's Angels. They were often protective of neighborhood denizens despite their tendency to start a ruckus or frighten patrons of CBGBs with their presence. As well, the story of Hilly's early life is worked into the story in a charming way.

When Genya Ravan, one of the first women of rock, berates the Dead Boys about the swastika stickers on their instrument cases as their manager, Hilly, is Jewish, it isn't mentioned that Genya herself was a survivor of the Holocaust. Cowed, the Dead Boys remove them. However, while this scene awkwardly makes the point that punks were not Nazis, creepy symbols were brandished as part of the punk aesthetic. Anything that would annoy was the point, and this extended to personal adornment, attitude, song lyrics, music, all a backlash to the wholesome Brady Bunch, height-of-disco world most of the punks came from and that still existed everywhere but in the the thimbleful of punk clubs, its daytime hub around St. Mark's Place in the East Village; in its beginnings, punk was a small, insular world.

It is a disappointment that certain seminal punk bands are not mentioned, like the New York Dolls or the Stilettos. To know what these bands were really like one will still have to go to Youtube, or look at films made during the punk era like Blank Generation, which stars Richard Hell who played with the Heartbreakers and his own band, the Voidoids.

Beyond using the history of punk rock emerging as the backdrop of the film, it really is not a film about punk rock. Ultimately, CBGB is a character study of the unassuming Hilly Kristal who gave us a stage to work our songs. He gave advice. He gave encouragement. He made sure we got our splits at the door. He made us feel CBGBs was our home, that we were a familial extension of his own family.

So do go see this film for Alan Rickman's performance. Do go see this film about an unassuming man whose efforts gave a platform to fresh new voices when no one else was doing so. Do go see this film about a quiet man who brought loud music to the world.
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It was good!
Jimmi Accardi23 October 2013
I saw it on the big screen, and it was good! The film comes with a great soundtrack and lots of laughs too. The theater audience around me seemed to be enjoying the film. I was there at CBGB during this time period, and my band The Laughing Dogs played there. One of our songs is in the soundtrack. I am glad that this movie was made and I appreciate that the movie preserves the history of the place and of Hilly Kristal. Hilly provided opportunities to a lot of bands and a place for bands to play their original music. Many bands got signed with record labels after performing at CBGB. I found the sets and characters looked like the real thing, as if I was back there. I have written a more thorough review on my website.
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A Little Club That Could.. at least for a little while!
marklamendola24 October 2013
Saw the CBGB Movie last night... Great job! no car crashes.. just Hilly's truck, no alien invasion, no love story unless you count the part with.. Well, I wont mention any names.. Just a story about a little club that could.. at least for a little while. Alan Rickman did capture the essence of Mr. K.. this is not a documentary so I did not mind the time line of certain things not being accurate, it was entertaining and if you were not fortunate enough to have been there back in the day you can still learn a thing or two about the beginnings of Punk Rock. Yes there were many bands that played that stage and some are upset for not being included.. perhaps writing scathing reviews.. I was happy to be there "cant all be rock stars" Great tribute to Hilly at the end when Talking Heads were added to R&R Hall of Fame. I loved it and do want to see it again!
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Go see this movie!
Gary Schoenberg24 September 2013
Look, full disclosure: I didn't have any of the baggage of ever hearing of or being at CBGB. I lied to get into the preview: (I'm sixty one and the cutoff was 60). I didn't fancy myself a fan of punk. Didn't really even know what it was. I LOVED this movie start to finish. The story, the texture, the music all lifted me into a different world. The cuts between this punk magazine and this story amazed me as they worked. The music is a dream collection and the quirky story of the accidental birth of this genre of music made me smile end to end. That there is a Jewish back story to punk music, the Godfather of punk, the lunacy of swastika sporting musicians given their chance in life by a Yid, just made it the sweeter. If this movie makes it to your area ever (which it probably won't in Portland, Oregon), race to it and enjoy!
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A sad tribute to an era that deserves much better.
michaeltaaron-114 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I wanted to like this movie, but it was flawed in many ways. In summary, 1) no cohesive story 2) an uninteresting main character 3) not believable.

It was obvious to me that the creators were not real fans of the music, but rather looking to capitalize on a genre they 'thought' would make a good movie. They cast Stiv Bators to be a callous, brash, jerk who didn't care about Johnny Blitz's stabbing. He was, in fact, nothing like that. He was thoughtful, soft spoken, and incredibly upset about that incident. Another case in point, there were stickers all over the walls from the 90's & 2000's (ex. Naked Aggression, OFF!) when the Ramones were first taking the stage. Oops.

I also couldn't stand the way that Lisa Kristal, an executive producer of the film, clearly tried to make it seem like she had the vision for CBGB's (by telling her dad that this was the next big thing) or that she 'saved' the club from financial ruin, when in fact, this is complete nonsense.

In a tiny cameo, they portrayed Iggy Pop as a fool, as well, when he, not Hilly, is widely considered the 'Godfather' of punk. These people were not nihilistic morons, as they were portrayed. They were intelligent artists, making a statement against the music of the time (Foghat, Pink Floyd, etc). And yes, Hilly was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to give them a venue, but that fact alone does not make him a very interesting main character.

As a fan, I wanted this movie to be good, but it was just so wrong on so many levels. I'm sure everyone that was around to remember it feels the same way, too.
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Wouldn't A Documentary Be Better?
mowasteph30 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I love Alan Rickman so it pains me to say this - why was he cast in this role? He sleepwalks through the whole thing. And I was told he was supposed to be all New York-y. He's about as New York-y as the Queen. A jew-fro, 20 extra pounds and a wardrobe of overalls does NOT make a character.

Now on to the real problem: who wrote this thing? Did YOU get any sense of the importance or significance of CBGB watching this dumb movie? Because I didn't. Mostly it seemed to be a movie about a guy who steadfastly refused to pay his rent for no particular reason whatsoever. If the real Hilly was this much of a moronic aye-hole nobody would have had anything to do with him and history would not have been made.

Now onto the "famous acts." These characters were paraded on in a ridiculous fashion. Oooo, there's Blondie. Oooo, there's Taylor Hawkins being Iggy. Oooo, there's the Ramones and the Talking Heads and a glimpse of Annie Golden and Harry Potter's friend in the Dead Boys. And why were those polished studio recordings used every time someone "played"? Where was the rawness? There was no sense of the growth of these bands or the growth of the club and there was no sense of what Hilly really meant to anyone. Remember in the final credits and they show Tina Weymouth at the RnR Hall of Fame bringing Hilly on stage with them and she talks about how Hilly FED them, and NURTURED them and blah blah blah. Did you see ANY of that in this movie? No.

Finally...what was up with that comic book style? What in the world has this got to do with comic books?
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Music and a story
zif ofoz26 April 2014
When I finished this movie my first reaction was - WoW - what an experience CBGB would have been. Of course I realize the movie is not a historical chronicle of life and time of Hilly and his CBGB. The movies first intent is to entertain the viewer - and it does entertain very well.

I think the director and writers wanted to show the beginnings of the Punk Rock phenomenon paralleled by the beginnings of CBGB which would grow in fame just as the punk movement grew internationally. So the focus of this film is the beginning of three things - CBGB, punk rockers, and Hilly's personal beginning finding his way through his vision.

Alan Rickman gives a top notch performance as Hilly and the supporting cast do just as well, which makes this a diamond of a movie. The music may be too 'studio perfect' but how many people that will see this movie actually heard these bands live in their early days. Most all of us know these bands by their records.

Give this a look - it's quite a story with a really lovable dog too!!
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gabe-geltzer14 October 2013
I saw this movie because I had written a screenplay about 6 years ago about The Dead Boys and CBGBs that circulated town and was never bought. I was curious - and a little suspicious - needless to say when this movie went into production. My fears were unfounded, almost nothing I wrote was in this sloppy, scotch-taped up plot less pile of scenes.

First off, you have endless possibilities for interesting stories. This was a seminal period in rock n roll history. But to make the "Hilly Kristal Story" is a ridiculous choice. He simply is not the hero of this scene or this movement. He was a passive bar owner who was in the right place at the right time. He waddles around the movie with no interest in anything other than making a buck. I met and interviewed Hilly - around 2006. He seemed like he barely cared and even admitted he was in the right place at the right time.

The Dead Boys are a totally interesting story and they are treated like a bunch of spoiled sh*theads. Every cameo rock star appearance is silly and embarrassing. Iggy Pop gets like one line? No lines for Dee Dee? Where was Johnny Thunders? Where was Seymour Stein and Sire Records? Why does Legs friggin McNeil use the word 'dude' constantly - remember we are in 1977? Lou Reed cameo was nauseating. Sloppy.

But here's what's really awful: It feels fake and made up from half-remembered anecdotes. The fact that Hilly's daughter - incidentally an EP on the film - plays a crucial part of the story also rubs me the wrong way. CBGB was about the music, not about some guy who ate Hostess cupcakes and paid the rent.

Plot: none. No climax, no resolution. No character development. Characters enter and leave and reenter and leave. The story opens on the so-called "inventors of punk" - um, no. They made a fan magazine and wrote an OK book on which the source material was based. They were witnesses, not inventors. And they served no point in the film except to irritate me with political rants every 30 minutes. By the way, that's 4 appearances, because this is a slow-moving 120 minute movie whose best scenes are between an incidental made-up cop character and the bar- owner. Nothing happens except the usual "you're on thin ice mister."

The sets are vaguely realistic, though the Agnostic Front stickers really made my hair curl. The cartoons were OK. This may sound like I'm jealous because this was somehow pushed through the system with a huge catalog of punk songs (most of the budget must have gone to Sting, BTW) - but I'm relieved that there is still a good movie or miniseries to be made about this era. This just isn't it.
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Punk is disturbing and perfect
Alpay Sedat Durukan4 December 2016
I have watched the movie couple of times by now. For someone who gets really sad when people say "punk is dead", this movie really made me feel alive.

It is not a documentary, that's why you should not expect hundred percent historical accuracy. What you should expect is full understanding of the birth of punk rock.

Movie is definitely objective as it can be. Punk Rock is portrayed as an underground music which is for the misfits of the society. Movie does not portray this as a dramatic feature. Punk bands of the time are showed as who they really are. Great examples are the scenes including Debbie Harry and Ramones. In the movie, we can see whole concept of sex, drugs, and rock and roll as well.
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Enjoyed it a lot
ktyson94263 November 2013
Apparently, I'm practically the only reviewer that wasn't there or personally knew Hilly himself. I grew up in a smaller-ish mid-western town and was introduced to punk by a girl from high school in the late 70's, and became aware of CBGB in the mid 80's. CBGB was always a mecca I wanted to visit but never got the chance to, so I leaped at watching this movie.

First off... It' important to remember this is the fictionalize account of the legendary New York city punk club CBGB and Hilly Kristal, and not a documentary. I went into watching this with the expectations there would be many factual errors. I noticed some items like band stickers on the walls from the wrong decade, but it's a Hollywood movie... not a documentary. I think the end credits says it best where it says "And we know that Iggy Pop never played at CBGB... Just deal with it.".

This location was so instrumental to music that I doubt a 3 hour movie could have done it justice. They had to pack a lot of story into a short amount of time so no one watching this movie should do so expecting a historically accurate movie. I enjoyed how they interweaved Punk magazine into the story. I felt it helped keep an upbeat, lighthearted message about Hilly and CGBG and kept the plot moving.

Now it's a double edged sword here with my criticism. The plot got pretty thin in the middle of the movie as the director tried to give the viewer a idea of the energy that was going on with the bands playing there, and some of the insanity I'm sure went on there on a regular basis. While the plot got non-existence, it was still enjoyable to imagine being there and seeing bands like the Ramones, Blonde, Patti Smithe playing.

Even though I thought there were points where the plot got lost, and the acting was somewhat awkward and forced at points, I still thought it was well done. My one big complaint is the ending was sort of sudden and anticlimactic.

Overall I really enjoyed the movie personally... but I didn't have high expectations on what it was going to be either. I guess if you're a punk purist or were actually there, then someone might be disappointed in the movie.
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A Historic Account of One Man's Dream That Helped Change The World & Told With A Comedic Edge
Bob Sallese12 October 2013
It is difficult to find a good comedy these days but CBGB is the exception. There are lots of laughs from start to finish but what makes it even more enjoyable is that it is based on true life experiences. It tells the story of Hilly Kristal, an already two time failed night club owner who still wanted to fulfill his dreams. He found a run down bar on the Bowery in NYC which at that time was filled with drunks sleeping on the street and heavy heroin trafficking. He thought he would open a Country Blues Bar which makes the story that much funnier in this part of town. Eventually bands, who had no where else to go, came to him to fulfill their own fantasies of playing original music to a live crowd. In those days, only copy bands could find places to perform live. The movie depicts the early days which broke ground for the new pioneers of Rock & Roll like the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith and Talking Heads.

The movie concentrates on each and every mishap and obstacle that Hilly had to confront to live his dream. It also tells an additional story about an extremely talented band, the Dead Boys, which became the second obsession of Hilly Kristal as he thought they could become the next Rolling Stones! He hired record producer Genya Ravan to produce them and spent what little money he had to make that dream happen also. Now many decades later, one of the most talented bands to have ever played CBGBs finally gets their just due deserves because this movie exposes them to the masses whereas legal and personal disputes kept their records out of the stores for years.

CBGB is one laugh after another that everyone can relate to because we all have some crazy dream at one time or another and few rarely actually try to fulfill them, and even more so, ever do with any degree of success. There is a little Hilly Kristal in all of us. In many ways, Hilly Kristal did succeed because he helped change the world. He helped change a stale and boring corporate controlled music industry and it has never been the same since. You do not need to be a fan of punk rock or any music genre to enjoy this movie. It is fun for people from all walks of life and you will want to watch it over and over again for years to come.

The only criticism I would have to this movie, for music lovers, is that the Ramones were not completely depicted accurately and I am told because Johnny Ramone's widow would not sign off on their material since she did not agree to the casting of her late husband. I can not confirm this, but if it is true, I would think she had every right to decide how her husband, a legend of Rock & Roll, is depicted in a movie. That being said, I do not think his casting was terrible and their presence in the movie made the point intended to be made. On the brighter side for music lovers, we get a peek into the mind of young John Holmstrom in the movie and his view of kids turning "punk" in those early days. John Holmstrom was the founding editor of "Punk Magazine" and illustrator to much of the infamous comic book style artwork of the Ramones . His role to the origin's of the NYC punk scene is duly noted in the movie along with his perspectives at the time. It is a theme which the movie is based around and ties it all together to make it work just perfectly and to give it that comedic edge. Right from the early days, punk rock had a comic book mindset attached to it and this can be attributed to John's work as founding editor of Punk magazine and later with the Ramones.

While not all the castings are perfect, Alan Rickman, who portrays Hilly Kristal, is spot on in his performance. He is much deserving of a nomination for his role. Go see CBGB and then go see it again and do not believe any baloney the critics or disgruntled musicians may say.
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Sure, the accents are terrible and it's very glossy for a film about punk but it's so much fun.
Sergeant_Tibbs16 October 2013
I was a fan of CBGB music before I even knew what it was. I remember going to a second hand record store and asking them if they had any John Cale records. They said, yes, in the CBGB pile. The what? CBGB. Seeby-Jeeby..? And then they pointed at the section and there was a bunch of punk/new wave that I love. Heaven? Yes. Randall Miller seems to have a big passion for this music of the 70s and 80s too. I'm way more interested in the other upcoming project he had in mind called The Drummer, which was to star Vera Farmiga as Christine McVie and Aaron Eckhart as Dennis Wilson, but that film seems to not be happening anytime soon. Instead, I'm happy to check out CBGB to at least learn more about the place than 'it was a club.' The film prominently features musicians such as Television, The Dead Boys, Talking Heads, Blondie and Iggy Pop, but this story is about Hilly Kristal, the founder of the club, played by Alan Rickman. Although the film appears to glide through the narrative without much of a sense of jeopardy or pressure, it's very entertaining and colourful, designed in a magazine style with split screens and annotations every now and then. Even though that caricature tone does not match the gritty punk attitude of its topics, it's an accessible and simplified version that's great fun to watch, even if most of the accents are terrible.

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This film is crap!
conroyshawnr3 November 2013
The casting is laughable, hello Ashley Greene, and the character introductions are so unsubtle you could only assume that the producers had no faith that the audience would recognize little known rock stars like Lou Reed and the Ramones. It's hard to type sarcastically but I hope you get my drift. It's like, "Oh hello Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie, how's it going." That's not an actual line but not far off. Like Hilly's story, the film's heart is in the right place but alway falls short went it comes to the payoff. I'm bummed I spent $3.99 to rent this on iTunes, save yourself that money and go buy a Big Mac, it's much more worth it.
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Total Disappointment
luvearth-807-6020502 October 2013
How can you make a movie about music and allow every music performance scene to be atrocious? Cartoonesque? Amateur looking? They all came across like contestants in a Halloween costume contest. I'm sorry. This film is about music and every effort should have been put forth to blow you away with the music performances (even though they were dubbed). We have all seen it done beautifully millions of times. They spent no attention to accomplishing this what so ever. It was frankly embarrassing. Not to mention that the punk scene in NY and London was a political and intellectual movement. The only reason to even glimpse at this film is the fact that they nailed what it felt like and looked like to participate in that scene. Kudos. But did you have to throw every single artist under the bus? Truth told the performances and casting of Hilly, his daughter, staff and friends was very well done. Next
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A great and fun movie about CBGB and not for the faint of heart.
alfiecycling14 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
this contains spoilers ! if you dig the music of the 70's and punk in particular you will enjoy this. I certainly did.

This tells the story of the founding of the famous NY club CBGB and PUNK magazine. Hillel Kristal borrowed money from his mom to buy the Palace Bar in the Bowery.This after two bankruptcies...LOL. His daughter , Lisa, dropped out of college for lack of funds. So she is hired, fired then rehired by her father, Hillel aka Hilly.

It has a superb cast and the CBGB set is spot on.

Hilly and Lisa are played by Alan Rickman and Ashley Greene. I loved their performances. They are actually quite funny here.

Hilly : "You gotta spend money to make money." Lisa : "You gotta have money to spend money to make money. And since you spend all the money you make,you don't have any money to spend. So you might wanna think about saving the money you make instead of spending the money you make"...Way to go Lisa ! Also, Ashley's New Yawk accent is right on the money.

Freddy Rodriguez plays Idaho, a violin bowing homeless junkie that Hilly takes under his wing.

We see a NY style shakedown of Hilly thwarted by his new found biker buddies, the Titans of Hell.

We see The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, The Dead Boys and, towards the very end, The Police all auditioning for Hilly to get a gig at CBGB.

We also see Blondie and Iggy Pop singing, I Wanna Be Your Dog. And Patti Smith perform,Because The Night.

I love this movie and have watched it numerous times because of where it takes me. Just before the closing credits Hilly says that he opened the club because he thought country music was gonna be the next big thing...and it was ...in Nashville.LOL.

During the ending credits we see the real Talking Heads accepting their induction into the Rock'N' Roll Hall Of Fame and what they do to honor Hilly is so moving.That is a MUST SEE !

The only negative I can talk about is the movie spends too much time on The Dead Boys. Apparently Hilly saw something in them and invested a lot of money to manage them and nearly lost his club to this band that eventually crashed and burned.
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Historical inaccuracies bound
bimbowes18 November 2013
Regardless of the inaccuracies, the music is great and the film provides a small glimpse into the scene at the Bowery club. Alan Rickman is wonderfully droll and captures the spirit of Hilly. Nice seeing a few old rockers pop up in cameos. Would have been nice to see more character development and have the bands that helped kick off the club and the punk scene be portrayed more than cardboard cut-outs. You can practically smell the stale beer and pee. I would suggest reading Legs McNeil's, "Please Kill Me" to supplement the film's account of the mid 70's NY music scene. Some casting was spot on, but the Lou Reed scene was pathetic and the actor was horrible. I like Justin Bartha, as well, but Stiv Bators was hardly adorable. The wigs were ridiculous too.
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A Great Idea Gone Wrong
CraigLeon13 October 2013
There are a few 5 star user reviews on here that rabbit on about "one man's mission", etc. Please note that in my opinion the critics' reviews more accurately reflect what this film is about and what it stands for.

I was quite involved in the CBGB and downtown New York music scene in the 1970s. I was also a good friend and business colleague of Hilly Kristal, the man whose vision is supposedly being depicted in the film.

In my opinion it does not reflect what Hilly would have wanted his legacy to be. Why? Not because it's main "laugh lines" revolve around subjects like his dog's loose bowels; not because it dwells on his supposed lack of business acumen(tough to not know anything what you're doing about business and leave an estate of $3.7 million); and not because of all of the other factual and musical mistakes in the film that others have pointed out already. I will not bother to list them all. Most of the critics' reviews do list them successfully.

To me why this film is so bad is two fold.

1. It doesn't reflect the spirit of downtown NY in any way I ever saw except possibly the parody of it that was Punk Magazine which we all admired as a humorous side line to events at the time but in no way represented the artistic aspirations of the early artists ((I stress early as in Television, Ramones, Patti Smith, Mink De Ville, Suicide) who were supported by Hilly and the other club owners of NY and who frequented CBGB, Max's Kansas City and the other bars downtown and uptown.

2. It's incredibly badly made. Almost everything about it on the production, direction, script and technical side is appallingly amateurish.

The "spirit" of downtown NY that Hilly Kristal put forward and that the film producer's are trying to invoke was one where young artists could hone their skills and perform what they wanted trying to get to the next rung of success in their chosen fields.Everyone tried to better themselves with every performance.

Whether the production team wanted to play the story as a comedy, a tragedy, a musical, a comic book or whatever is irrelevant. It could have been any of these but whatever was in their minds they missed the boat by simply not doing it well. The film comes off as turgid, boring and confusing.They violated the primary premise of Hilly Kristal by messing up their craft so badly.

The participants and supporters of the film who prattled on about how historically correct it was going to be justify their many mistakes with the claim that "It's only a movie". Well any movie is "only a movie". So they want us to believe that CBGB The Movie is a light-hearted comedy and "only a movie"? It could have been but I don't think that many will find it even remotely funny except perhaps the people who are participants in the film and who are looking to gain some sort of supposed financial or career success out of it.

Please take the raves from audience reviewers with a grain of salt.

Please don't take my review or others by audience viewers too seriously either.There are far too many people who were creatively there at the time or who are fans of the real work that came out of the scene who dislike the film as much or more than I do. We are being termed "haters" by the film's participants. There are an awful lot of us "haters" out there then.

There are also a great deal of Stana, Rupert, etc. fan club members who along with the participants and misty eyed memorialising ex workers from the club who are skewering audience reviews the other way.

But in this case (which is rare) please do heed the warnings of the overwhelming majority of critics who really,really dislike this horribly crafted little film.

Disappointing and sad rather than uplifting and funny.
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HEY - I liked It
PartialMovieViewer4 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
SO...I am sure there were mistakes made and liberties taken. Before I begin, please remember this is a non-fiction account of an important time in music. 'CBGB', is generated out of Holly-weird, you know - that place where facts occasionally get in the way of telling a good story. I got that, and understand a twisted truth often reflects ideologies ingrained in the minds of many movie producers, directors or writers. In this case, I doubt any bad intentions were meant, I think their goal was solely creating good entertainment. For me - they did a spectacular job. Thank you cast and crew good job.

I do understand that this movie is not for everyone. I am old enough to have hitched my musical wagon to the music of the '60s and '70s. So I would be extra critical of anything pumped out attempting to explain, 'Woodstock', or, 'The Monterrey Pop Festival.' Again, I appreciate those critical of this movie.

For me, this movie ginned something up inside of me personally. I am now very interested in researching this important bit of history. I vaguely remember this era, although this time-frame was a bit after my 'generation.' I hate to admit it, I had very little interest in the entire genre (of course I owned albums by Lou Reed, Blondie, Patti Smith, and The Ramones – but never really cared to digest any meaning behind the 'Punk?' movement.) Well now I do. For those of us hidden in the shadows (or me - I am Punk-ignorant) – this was a super summary of the time.

Again, thanks cast and crew– excellent job.
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Don't Come Close
SteveResin1 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
CBGB is a decent if frustrating look at the birth of punk rock in New York in the mid-70s. It's more a love letter to the club's owner Hilly Kristal than to the movement itself.

The cast are mostly great. Alan Rickman is excellent as Kristal, and the actors portraying such well known faces of the period like Debbie Harry, David Byrne, Patti Smith and The Ramones are believable. There are a few missteps, such as Lou Reed and Richard Hell in particular. A few interesting players in the story are missing for some reason, such as Nancy Spungeon, Jerry Nolan, Lester Bangs, Johnny Thunders and more, which is annoying.

For dedicated fans of the period there are also some added gripes such as them re-writing the story of Johnny Blitz's stabbing, which happened completely differently to what they show here. Why do that?

Ultimately it's an enjoyable if flawed experience packed with fantastic music and larger than life characters, definitely worth seeing if you have any interest in the genre.
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One of the best music movies
Foivos Vlahos12 February 2018
The music inheritage of CBGB and the history of PUNK in a movie. Simply outstanding.
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Will go down in film history as a cult classic among film and music fans!
Hellmant14 December 2013
'CBGB': Four Stars (Out of Five)

A biographical comedy film about the New York club CBGB and it's founder Hilly Kristal. It was directed by Randall Miller and written by Miller and Jody Savin (who worked on multiple screenplays with Miller). The film stars Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal and co-stars the likes of Ashley Greene (of 'TWILIGHT' fame), Donal Logue, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Zuckerman, Ahna O'Reilly and Richard de Klerk. It also features a number of other actors as famous rock stars; like Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry, Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone, Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop, Mickey Sumner as Patti Smith, Kyle Gallner as Lou Reed, Justin Bartha as Stiv Bators and Rupert Grint (of 'HARRY POTTER' fame) as Cheetah Chrome. I found the movie to be highly entertaining and informative.

Rickman plays New York club owner Hilly Kristal, who opened CBGB in Manhattan in 1973. He originally planned to have country, bluesgrass and blues bands play there (which is what the name stands for) but instead turned it into an underground Rock 'n' Roll venue. It played only new and original music, from mostly punk and New Wave bands (like the Ramones, Misfits, The Dead Boys, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith Group, The Police and Joan Jett & The Bleackhearts to name a few). It's largely seen as the birthplace of American punk rock music. The film focuses on Kristal's struggles to keep the club open as he deals with many financial issues. He later became known as the 'godfather of punk'.

The first genre of music I really got into (as a young adult) was punk and alternative music (mostly pop punk and ska punk bands at first but later more traditional punk rock music as well). One of my all-time favorite bands is the Ramones and I've always been fascinated by CBGB and the early 70s punk rock scene; so this movie was really interesting to me (I also found it to be highly entertaining). I was expecting a more serious biography film and was quite surprised to see a cartoonish style comedy flick (that takes a lot of creative liberties). Some punk rock fans might be upset by this but I liked it. I thought Rickman was great and Bartha, Grint and Moore are all scene-stealers as well (all of the performances are good in fact). I think it will go down in film history as a cult classic among film and music fans! If you're into the same style of music you're almost sure to be entertained.

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I really ended up liking this much more then I thought I would. This isn't a good movie about music, this is a good movie period.
Tony Heck25 November 2013
"There's something there, there's definitely something there." After two failed attempts at running a bar and on the verge of bankruptcy Hilly Kristal (Rickman) throws everything he has into a bar where he wants to feature local country, bluegrass or blues bands. What it turns out to be is the launching pad for an entirely new sound for a new generation. As the legend goes punk wasn't born here but after bands such as Blondie, The Ramones, The Police and Iggy Pop punk was discovered here. I have to admit I am not a fan of punk music. I did like the Police and some songs by the bigger named artists but overall it's not one of my favorite genres. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this going in but I really ended up liking it. Alan Rickman is great in this (as always) and the story moved fast enough that there really wasn't a boring part in this at all. The actors they picked to play the bands were spot on, Malin Akerman, Rupert Grint and Kyle Gallner are all interesting choices. I really ended up liking this much more then I thought I would. Overall, this is not just a good movie about music, this is a good movie period. I give it a B+.
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